The Impossible Exile

Stefan Zweig At The End Of The World

George Prochnik

Published by Other Press in Hardback / Epub (£19.99) on 06-05-2014

A highly original study of exile, told through the biography of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig

In the 1930s, Stefan Zweig was one of the world’s foremost literary celebrities and the most widely translated living author in the world.  An icon of the Viennese cultural renaissance, his intellectual and social circles counted Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse, and Franz Werfel; his critics included the likes of Hannah Arendt and Karl Kraus.  Yet Zweig became increasingly troubled by Hitler’s rise to power and what he viewed as European intellectualism’s complicity in the dark forces overtaking the continent. Beginning in 1934, this best-selling writer of novels, short stories, and biographies, and staunch advocate of international humanism, plummeted into an increasingly isolated exile—from London to Bath to New York City, then Ossining, Rio, and finally Petrópolis—where, in 1942, in a cramped bungalow, he and his wife Lotte committed double suicide.

THE IMPOSSIBLE EXILE is a compelling psychological study of Stefan Zweig’s years in exile, of the cultural and political landscape of pre-War Vienna, and of the implosion of Europe as an ideal of Western civilization. Through a portrait of a world on a precipice, teetering between old ideals of the past and the future’s new possibilities, Prochnik brings readers a nuanced meditation on the experience of exile.

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in Zweig, following the publication of Oliver Matuschek’s seminal biography and more recently Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is inspired by the life and works of Zweig.  Rather than following the well-trod ground of chronology and influence in Zweig’s life and work, THE IMPOSSIBLE EXILE offers much-needed context: social, psychological, cultural, and political.  Prochnik also takes care to recover characters in Zweig’s story who have been largely neglected until now, most notably Zweig’s second wife Lotte and step-niece, Eva. These intriguing female characters add new depth to our understanding of Zweig’s story—and imbue the trajectory of his tragic life with a new dimension of hope.

For Zweig acolytes, THE IMPOSSIBLE EXILE offers a fresh perspective on the historical moment of which Zweig was a part; for neophytes, it will serve as a compelling introduction to a complex and enduring literary figure.

George Prochnik’s essays, poetry, and fiction have appeared in numerous journals. He taught English and American literature at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is editor-at-large for Cabinet magazine, and is the author of In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise and Putnam Camp: Sigmund Freud, James Jackson Putnam, and the Purpose of American Psychology. He lives in New York City.  Book trailer here:  https://vimeo.com/88091491

  • Drawing on archival and personal material, Prochnik examines the life of exiled Austrian writer Stefan Zweig  to shed light on the affliction of exile that redefined the lives and works of many intellectuals during WWII…this original and often ruminative study should find an appreciative audience.

    Publishers Weekly

  • Stefan Zweig stands in for Europe’s uprooted intellectuals in this elegiac portrait…intelligent, reflective and deeply sad portrait of a man tragically cut adrift by history.

    Kirkus

PR Collective’s current campaigns

See more campaigns →

Radical Revenge

We all know what it’s like to want revenge, but where does that urge come from?  Why is it so hard to give up?  And why can some people only satisfy it through extreme and brutal acts?  In her new book, Radical Revenge, Renée Danziger draws on psychoanalytic thinking to offer a fresh perspective on […]

Read more →

Light to Life

In this fascinating, revelatory new book, biologist Raffael Jovine takes us on a journey of discovery into the intricate, beautiful and often surprising processes that convert energy from the sun into life and how all-important these are to our survival. Despite the unprecedented challenges the Earth faces from global warming, habitat loss, air pollution and […]

Read more →

The Art of Repair

It all started with a pair of socks… White, woollen – my favourite pair. The heels had become thin and threadbare; then a small hole appeared on one of the toes. Too precious to throw away, I decided to mend them. I chose a ball of yarn from my mother’s wool collection and she found me her old darning mushroom, which had once belonged to my granny, and explained the basics. I remember the feeling of it: threading the needle with a strand of contrasting grey wool, while pulling the heel over the domed wooden mushroom; weaving my needle in and out of the surviving strands; making little bridges back and forth like a lawn mower; slowly closing the hole. The process was instinctive. I can still recall the feeling of pride and achievement when I had finally finished. Sure my darn looked a little rustic, but I had given my socks
a new lease of life, a second chance.

Read more →